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Political Review:

Vietnam in 2017

Emeritus Professor Carlyle A. Thayer

Presentation to Vietnam Update 2017
Department of Political and Social Change, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs
ANU College of Asia and the Pacific, The Australian National University
Canberra, November 20, 2017
1. Vietnam Communist Party Central Committee
2. Prime Minister and Cabinet
3. National Assembly
4. Anti-Corruption Campaign
5. Crackdown on bloggers, human rights/pro-
democracy activists
6. Politics of Life: Vietnams One-Party State
1. Outcome of the
Central Committee Plenums 2017
5 th Plenum (May 5-10, 2017)
Approved three resolutions:
Completing the socialist-oriented market economy
Continuing to re-organize and improve the efficiency of
state-owned enterprises
Developing the private economy into an important driving
force of the socialist-orientated market economy
inh La Thng issued official warning and dismissed
inh La Thng replaced by Nguyn Thin
Nhn on May 7, 2017 as Secretary of the Ho
Chi Minh City Party Committee
6 th Plenum (October 4-10, 2017)
Prime Minister Nguyn Xun Phc: Report on the Socio-Economic
Situation and State Budget in 2017 and Tasks for 2018
Deputy Prime Minister Trng Ha Bnh : Report on the Plan on
Enhancing Protection, Care for and Improvement of Public Health
Phm Bnh Minh: Report on Population Work
Deputy Prime Minister Vng nh Hu: Report on Project to Reform
Management and Financial Mechanisms and Reorganize Public
Administrative Units
6 th Plenum (October 4-10, 2017)
Nguyn Xun An dismissed as Nng City party secretary
Secretariat enlarged by appointment of two new members:
Phan nh Trc, Central Commission for Internal Affairs, vice chairman of
Central Steering Committee for Anti-Corruption
Nguyn Xun Thng, Director of Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics,
vice chairman of Central Theoretical Council
Regulation on Personnel Rotation (98-QD/TW)
Personnel strategy and rotation of leading and managerial personnel
Steering Committees for Northwest, Southwest and Central Highlands
regions to be dissolved
Health Issues and Personnel Appointments

inh Th Huynh, head

Trn Quc Vng
of Secretariat, reported
Thng trc Ban B th
seriously ill
August 1, 2017
Health Issues and Personnel Appointments

President Trn i Quang

appears in public on
August 25 for the first time
since 25 July when he met
the secretary of Russia's
security council, Nikolai
sident Tran Dai Quang and his wife Nguyen Thi Hien
k down the stairs at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi,
rch 1, 2017. REUTERS/Hoang Dinh Nam/Pool Reuters
2. Prime Minister and Cabinet
Environmental Pollution April-May 2016
Continues to Cast Shadow in 2017

Formosa Plastics chemical spill,

April 2016
Public protests
Slow government response
Compensation an issue
Prime Ministers Economic Reform Agenda

Socialist market economy

Proactively pursue global integration with aim to become
middle income country by 2020
Reform of State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs)
Reform banking sector reduce public debt
Anti-corruption/vested interests (extra-legal)
PM Nguyn Tn Dngs cronies, bankers, real estate
3. National Assembly
14th Legislature
National Assembly
3 Session, May 22-June 21, 2017

Passed twelve laws, six bills and twelve resolutions

perfected the institutions of the socialist-oriented market
economy mechanism

Law on Management and Use of State Assets (amended)

Criminal Code
Law on State Compensation Liability
Law on Legal Aid,
Planning Law postponed due to contentious content
Three days allocated to question and answer sessions out
of one month
National Assembly
4 Session, 23 October-24 November

Socio-Economic Development Plan, 2018

Approved budget allocation for 2018
Passed amendments and supplements to articles of the Law on
Physical Training and Sports, the Law on Credit Institutions, and Law
on Overseas Representative Missions of The Socialist Republic of
Submitted drafts on Law on Forest Protection and Development, Law
on Planning, Law on Protection of Government Secrets and Law on
Network Security
National Assembly
4th Session, 23 October-24 November

Approved new Minister of Transport, Nguyn Vn Th (L) and new Government Inspector General, L
Minh Khi. Former transport minister, Trng Quang Ngha, was appointed to serve as the Party
Secretary of Nng City, while former Government Inspector General, Phan Vn Su, was appointed
party secretary of Sc Trng province.
4. Anti-Corruption Campaign
Petro Viet Nam, Sacombank,
Ocean Bank and Vietnam Construction Bank

Mass trial of 51 company and bank officials

H Vn Thm (OceanBank)

Former Chairman
of the Board of
Directors of the
Commercial Joint
Stock Bank loss
of $94 million
Nguyn Xun Sn sentenced to death

Chairman of
the Board
Petro Vietnam
Loss of $69
Trnh Xun Thanh kidnapped in Germany
5. Arrest and Trials of Bloggers
and Human Rights/pro-Democracy Activists

Over 21 pro-democracy activists and bloggers

arrested in 2016; at least 17 arrested in 2017
Over 110 prisoners of conscience 2017 (HRW)
36 cases where activists were beaten by
government associated thugs (Jan 2015-Apr
M Nm on trial January 2017

Convicted in July and sentenced to 10 years in prison for conducting propaganda against the state
Brotherhood for Democracy
Nh u
tranh Trn Anh
Kim v ng s
L Thanh Tng
- Hi Anh Em
Dn ch
December 2016
upheld May 2017
Tran Anh Kim and Le Thanh Tung
Trn Th Nga (Thy Nga)

Anti-China activist,on East Sea, land

and labour rights, Formosa toxic spill
Brotherhood for Democracy

Nguyn Vn Tc,
arrested 2008,
released 2012, re-
arrested in 2017 7th
member of
6. Politics of Life: Vietnams One-Party State
Explaining Vietnamese Politics
Elite Power Struggle
Contending Policy Currents (four headed)
Weak State, Strong Society
Political Authority
Sustainable Governance Indicators
Sectoral representation
Elite Power Struggle Zachary Abuza
Secretary General Nguyn Ph Trng
elected for third term at 12th VCP Congress in January
Expected to step down at mid-term party conference
Two contenders to replace him
inh Th Huynh
Trn i Quang
Contending Policy Currents Alex Vuving

Conservatives Modernizers

Moderates Rent Seekers

Sectoral Re[resentation
on the Central Committee
Sector 11th Congress 12th Congress
Politburo 9% 10.5%
Central Party-State 38% 35.5%
Secondary/Local 42% 42%
Military 11% 12%
Leadership Change:Central Committee
12th Party Congress, January 2016
180 (175) full voting members, 20 (25) alternate
Retained full members 58%
Full New/Alternate members 42%
Continuity with the past rather than abrupt change
General transition 40s, 50s and 60s
Sectoral composition only minor changes
Paper Leviathan: Political Authority
Adam Fforde and Lada Homutova

How is authority (uy) perceived by

Vietnamese citizens?
Relationship between authority and
You can have power without authority
but you cannot have authority without
State has authority but lacks elements
of power
Weak State, Strong Society
Bertelsmann Foundation, Sustainable Governance Indicators
Status Index:
Quality of Democracy
Policy Performance
Management Index
Executive Capacity
Executive Accountability
Six Step Process
Two subject matter experts provide scores on each variable. The
scores range from 1 (low) to 10 (high). The scores are grouped into
four bands: 1-2, 3-5, 6-7 and 9-10
Sustainable Governance Indicators
Status Index
Quality of Democracy Policy Performance
Electoral process Economy and
Access to information employment
Civil rights Social affairs
Rule of law Security
Sustainable Governance Indicators
Management Index
Executive Capacity Executive Accountability
Steering capability (strategic Citizens
capacity, inter-ministerial
coordination, evidence-based Legislature
instruments, societal consultation
and policy communication)
Effective Policy
implementation organizations
Institutional learning [Insufficient data]
(adaptability and organizational
reform capacity)
Sustainable Governance Indicators
Aggregate Score of Two Indices
Country Aggregate Band Classification
Singapore 7.3 2 Medium High

Indonesia 4.6 3 Medium Low

Malaysia 4.4 3 Medium Low

Vietnam 3.8 3 Medium Low

Carlyle A. Thayer, Weak States and Strong Societies in Southeast Asia, in Amin
Saikal, ed., Weak States, Strong Societies (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 2015). 149-172.
Weak but Developing State
Organisation Survey Ranking

World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report 55 out of 137


Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom 63 out of 181


World Bank Ease of Doing Business Report, 82 out of 190


Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 113 out of 176


United Nations Development Human Development Index 2016 115 out of 188

Reporters Without Borders Worldwide Press Freedom Index 175 out of 180
Integration, Dynamic Reform and
Comprehensive Development
Vietnams Global Competitiveness Index (World Economic Forum)
jumped 20 ranks over five years to 55th of 137 (2017-18)
Vietnams Doing Business Rank (World Bank) increased 14 ranks in
one year (ASEAN 5 Group), 68th out of 190
Global Innovation Index (World Property Organisation), jumped 12
ranks [time period not specified], 47th out of 127 (May 2017)
Vietnams middle class account for 10% to rise to 50% by 2035 (World
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc at Vietnam Business Summit (7 November
Political Review:
Vietnam in 2017

Emeritus Professor Carlyle A. Thayer

Presentation to Vietnam Update 2017
The Australian National University
Canberra, November 20, 2017

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